Article Text

other Versions

Download PDFPDF
Best management of irritable bowel syndrome
  1. Christopher J Black1,2,
  2. Alexander Charles Ford1,2
  1. 1Leeds Gastroenterology Institute, St. James's University Hospital, Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK
  2. 2Leeds Institute of Medical Research at St. James's, University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom
  1. Correspondence to Professor Alexander Charles Ford, Leeds Gastroenterology Institute, St. James's University Hospital, Leeds LS9 7TF, UK; alexf12399{at}


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder of gut-brain interaction which can have a considerable impact on quality of life. Following diagnosis, timely and evidence-based management is vital to the care of patients with IBS, aiming to improve outcomes, and enhance patient satisfaction. Good communication is paramount, and clinicians should provide a clear explanation about the disorder, with a focus on exploring the patient’s own beliefs about IBS, and a discussion of any concerns they may have. It should be emphasised that symptoms are often chronic, and that treatment, while aiming to improve symptoms, may not relieve them completely. Initial management should include simple lifestyle and dietary advice, discussion of the possible benefit of some probiotics, and, if this is unsuccessful, patients can be referred to a dietician for consideration of a low FODMAP (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols) diet. Antispasmodics and peppermint oil can be used first-line for the treatment of abdominal pain. If patients fail to respond, central neuromodulators can be used second-line; tricyclic antidepressants should be preferred. Loperamide and laxatives can be used first-line for treating diarrhoea and constipation, respectively. Patients with constipation who fail to respond to laxatives should be offered a trial of linaclotide. For patients with diarrhoea, the 5-hydroxytryptamine-3 receptor agonists alosetron and ramosetron appear to be the most effective second-line drugs. Where these are unavailable, ondansetron is a reasonable alternative. If medical treatment is unsuccessful, patients should be referred for psychological therapy, where available, if they are amenable to this. Cognitive behavioural therapy and gut-directed hypnotherapy are the psychological therapies with the largest evidence base.

  • irritable bowel syndrome

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Twitter @DrCJBlack

  • Contributors CJB and ACF drafted the article.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Linked Articles

  • UpFront
    R Mark Beattie